Letter From the Director: Engagement With Patient Advocacy and Community Groups Is Core to NIAMS’ Mission
Since joining NIAMS in 2021, I have been struck by how much our mission is driven by meaningful interactions with patient advocacy and other community groups interested in research related to bones, joints, muscles, and skin. This point was driven home this year with two terrific collaborative events: a multi-day meeting to gather input for the NIAMS 2025–2029 Strategic Plan and the 2023 NIAMS Coalition Outreach and Education Meeting.
On November 9, 2023, Monica M. Bertagnolli, M.D., became the 17th director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She is the first surgeon and the second woman to hold the position.
NIAMS is updating its Strategic Plan to help guide the research, training, and information dissemination programs it supports for fiscal years 2025 through 2029. The institute invites feedback on the cross-cutting, thematic research opportunities that position the institute to make a difference in the lives of all Americans. With input gathered in response to a July 2023 Request for Information and from a meeting in September attended by approximately 160 researchers, patient representatives, and staff from other federal entities, NIAMS requests your comments on the ideas obtained to date for the 2025–2029 Strategic Plan. The deadline for submitting responses has been extended to January 15, 2024.
In a study recently published in Nature, a team of researchers studied more than 314,000 cells from samples of synovial tissues—specialized tissues that lubricate and cushion the joint but become inflamed in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The autoimmune disease causes joint inflammation, pain, and stiffness. There are several treatment options to control inflammation, but response to therapy varies, and some people with RA never reach remission, suggesting there may be different drivers of inflammation. The new findings could inform future treatment options.
Higher Income and Longer Working Years Are Linked to Better Mobility: Longitudinal Study Suggests Enhanced Musculoskeletal Health Can Prolong Working Years and Is Associated With Higher Income
A study on the relationship between mobility and income showed that better mobility was strongly associated with higher income and longer working years in adults. The findings also suggest that maintaining mobility was linked to greater earnings over time. The study was led by Timothy Bhattacharyya, M.D., head of the NIAMS Clinical and Investigative Orthopedics Surgery Unit.
NIAMS held its ninth Coalition Outreach and Education Meeting on September 19, at the Natcher Conference Center on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The NIAMS Coalition is an independent group of more than 95 professional and voluntary organizations interested in the research and mission areas of NIAMS. Approximately 50 representatives from more than 40 Coalition organizations joined NIAMS staff and speakers to total 80 attendees at this meeting.
Mariana Kaplan, M.D., a longstanding NIAMS researcher and leader, has been promoted to the title of NIH Distinguished Investigator. NIH Distinguished Investigators have established a record of career-high achievements and are considered NIH’s most preeminent Senior Investigators – an honor which only 2 to 3 percent of investigators receive – with entrance requiring a special peer-review process and approval by the NIH Director. Dr. Kaplan is NIAMS’ Deputy Scientific Director and serves as Chief of the Systemic Autoimmunity Branch.
Can Bioprinted Skin Substitutes Replace Traditional Grafts for Treating Burn Injuries and Other Serious Skin Wounds?
NIAMS-funded researchers showed that bioprinted skin substitutes may serve as a promising alternative to traditional skin grafts in preclinical studies.
In a study in mice, NIAMS-funded researchers tested extracellular vesicles from mouse skin as nanocarriers for anti-inflammatory cytokines, finding that an administration of the engineered nanocarriers reduced lung inflammation and tissue damage in a short amount of time.
NIAMS-supported researchers developed synthetic nanoparticles made of the skin pigment melanin, and tested them on skin wounds in mice and human skin samples. The nanoparticles sped up the healing of skin injuries. These findings suggest that topical synthetic melanin could be a promising therapy to speed wound healing.
When NIAMS intramural researchers recently gathered for the institute’s annual Intramural Research Program scientific retreat, they heard many talks about cutting-edge research from esteemed colleagues, but they also learned another lesson about medicine’s darker history. Dr. Dolen Perkins-Valdez, associate professor of literature at American University and self-described chronicler of American historical life, discussed her own research into a little-known incident that took place in 1970s Montgomery, Alabama, involving the Relf family.
The NIH All of Us Research Program and 10 partner institutes, centers, and offices have funded 26 research projects to support novel analyses and tool development using All of Us data. The 2-year awards advance impactful research in high-priority NIH mission areas.
NIAMS is managing one of the awards: Elucidating Social Determinants and Mental Health Needs to Achieve Equity in Rheumatic Disease Care.
ReveraGen BioPharma, a company supported by a small business grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for Agamree (vamorolone) for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), in children and adults ages 2 years and older. NIAMS and other NIH institutes supported the clinical trials and other efforts that led to the new treatment.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which includes NIH, is operating under the “Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2024” (H.R. 6363) signed by President Biden on November 16, 2023. This Act continues government operations through February 2, 2024, at the FY 2023 enacted level.
This image shows adipocytes derived from a muscle fiber of Pompe disease mouse. Pompe disease is a rare genetic disorder that results in profound muscle weakness. The disease is caused by mutations in the gene that instructs the body to make an enzyme called acid alpha-glucosidase.
Photo Credit: NIAMS Intramural Research Program
Notice to Extend the Expiration Date for PA-20-272 "Administrative Supplements to Existing NIH Grants and Cooperative Agreements (Parent Admin Supp Clinical Trial Optional)" (NOT-OD-23-189)
Expiration date for PA-20-272 while re-issue is underway: December 31, 2023
Request for Information on Themes for the NIAMS Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2025-2029 (NOT-AR-23-022)
Response date: January 15, 2024
Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Promoting Research on COVID-19 and Rheumatic, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NOT-AR-23-008)
This Notice applies to applicable funding opportunities for due dates through January 8, 2024.
For most peer-reviewed research project grant applications beginning with submissions for due dates on or after January 25, 2025.
Notice of Special Interest: Encouraging Small Businesses to Partner with Resource-Limited Institutions (RLIs) on Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program Applications (NOT-OD-23-179)
First due date: January 5, 2024; see announcement for subsequent due dates.
Notice of Upcoming Prize Competition Announcement for the Complement-Animal Research in Experimentation (Complement-ARIE) Challenge (NOT-RM-23-025)
Due date: January 11, 2024
Down Syndrome Clinical Cohort Coordinating Center (DS-4C) for the INCLUDE Project (INvestigation of Co-occurring conditions across the Lifespan to Understand Down syndromE) (U54 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) (RFA-OD-24-005)
Due date: January 26, 2024
Request for Information (RFI): Best Practices for Sharing NIH Supported Research Software (NOT-OD-24-005)
Application due date: February 1, 2024
Health and Health Care Disparities Among Persons Living with Disabilities (R01 - Clinical Trials Optional) (PAR-23-309)
Application due date: February 5, 2024
Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (Admin Supp Clinical Trial Not Allowed) (PA-23-189)
NIAMS accepts and reviews applications on a continuous basis between October 1, 2023, and April 15, 2024. Find additional NIAMS-specific information on the NIAMS Diversity Supplement Program webpage.
Information about the NIH Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative®, an NIH-wide effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis, can be found on the HEAL website.
Stay Updated About Funding Announcements
Get information about grants and funding opportunities, subscribe to funding-dedicated email newsletters, including periodic NIAMS Funding Alerts and a monthly NIAMS Funding News email, and follow our X (formerly Twitter) account (@NIAMSFunding) focused on funding opportunities. Also check out the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, the primary source for information about NIH funding opportunities, and request a weekly Table of Contents from the NIH Guide. In addition, the NIAMS website provides comprehensive information on NIAMS-related grants and processes.
The next NIAMS Advisory Council Meeting will be held virtually on January 30, 2024. The meeting will be available for viewing via the NIH videocasting service. Watch a videocast recording of the previous NIAMS Advisory Council Meeting on August 29, 2023.
Prioritizing Genetics to Reduce Existing Health Disparities
Nancy J. Cox, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt Brain Institute
February 7, 2024
2 to 3 p.m. ET
Look for past videocasts, including:
- 2023 Lindberg-King Lecture—Got Community? Reflections on the Relevance of Community Engagement in Equitable Health Informatics and Data Science Innovations—December 2023
- Microbiome Control of Host Immunity—November 2023
- NIH-FNIH Workshop on the Future of Regenerative Medicine and Cell-based therapies—November 2023 Day One and Day Two